The USA is currently ahead of the UK in this area, as collaboration between businesses is firmly engrained within their culture. Part of this is through sheer necessity as the USA is so vast and naturally far harder to travel around and meet people face-to-face and the need for people to connect across multiple time zones. The other side is that attitudes are more progressive in America with collaboration. The technology is certainly there for business in the UK and they are catching up with the USA but it is the culture and attitudes which require the main adjustments.
If you look back to 10-12 years ago, conference calling was a new concept but caught on quickly with the technology around it developing rapidly. As always it was large corporates that led the way and they continue to do so in terms of upgrading their conferencing and collaboration tools. SMEs are a key segment but they tend to wait and follow the large corporates when making such decisions which is understandable but, it is the upgrade to full collaboration services which will allow the smaller businesses to compete and punch above their weight.
Businesses are becoming increasingly demanding regarding the conferencing functionality they need, more regularly enquiring about video, screen share, instant chat, etc. There is a demand for video as we often hear from customers and businesses alike that this makes the meeting experience more personal in that participants can better gauge reaction in-group discussion. The other big movement has been towards screen share applications as it is allowing meetings to take place as effectively remotely as in person. Documents can be easily and reliably presented to a group and worked upon together irrespective of where they are in the world and on any device. All in all, the growing trend is that businesses and individuals are keen to upgrade their relationship to full collaboration as it reflects the new way of working for a lot of companies.
Remote working is certainly becoming far more than a concept for many businesses and is helping drive them to the next level. Conference calling is a huge part of this but the reality is that there is now far more available. Businesses need to improve their ‘remote working’ experience and some take quality audio as an absolute ‘given’ these days when it comes to conferencing.
It is encouraging to hear that improved broadband and Wi-Fi have been raised as topics which need to be addressed. While technological advances have allowed changes to be made, improvements in both broadband and Wi-Fi are essential for flexible working and in turn helping small businesses grow. Allied with this, the ever-changing legislation around flexible working is also allowing staff to work from home and when managed well with the appropriate technology permits people to be more productive.
Sectors which are making particular use of the more advanced technology, in our experience, are recruitment, training, financial services, advertising and media and retail. It seems that those industries with multiple locations, together with a younger profile (ie the digital natives) are the early adopters that are driving this trend. As the working population continues to age, it is anticipated that screen share, video, chat will become the norm, not simply the domain of tech experts. We tend to see that people under the age of 32 are have grown up in the digital age and are fully au fait with all things tech, whereas people and employees above this age bracket stand a better chance of being digital heathens. What this means is that as these digital natives progress and work their way in to decision-making positions within companies, technology and such collaboration tools are far more likely to be embraced.